Up Close & Personal With Style Maven Ikram Goldman

Chicago's most coveted boutique is full of serious fashion — but, surprisingly, it isn't run by someone who takes herself too seriously. Sure, she's dressed Michelle Obama and has frequent meals with fashion royalty. (Dinner with Azzedine Alaïa in Paris? But of course.) Truth be told, though, Ikram Goldman is a loving wife and mother who treats every single one of her clients like a celebrity.
We went one-on-one with Chi-town's leading lady of style to talk about fashion, design, and everyday life — both in and out of her incredible retail haven, Ikram. We even got the scoop on whose body the store mannequins are patterned after and which world-renowned designer bit her on the leg at a dinner party. Every little detail is here, so start clicking now.
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Tell us a little bit about the design of the store, and how you envisioned this space working for all of the incredible global fashions and accessories you carry.
"Mario Aranda, our designer who originally designed our old store, completely had an understanding of my spirit and my husband’s spirit. When we found this location, we knew exactly that this is where we wanted to be. I mean, if you saw the old space versus what we have now, I can’t even imagine how he came up with it — but he did. We really wanted it to be something special and homelike. The courtyard creates a separation, so you really get that inviting, in-the-womb feeling when you walk in. It's less intimidating than if you were just walking into a store from the street. I wanted the space to feel like you could be safe and do anything here, and I think Mario, along with my husband and I, really captured that. I also think there’s something really beautiful about coming into a circular doorway."

The front of one of the most exclusive stores in the world, right here in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.
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You're giving fashion advice to others all day long. What's your own personal style?
"I’m a repeat offender when it comes to fashion. I wear the same outfit every day. For example, the Azzedine Alaïa dress that I’m wearing. I’ve probably worn it six days in a row right now, but it works and I feel great about it. Oh, and Nina Ricci. My entire wardrobe is Nina Ricci right now. I’m totally serious."

Ikram is wearing her favorite go-to Azzedine Alaïa dress and Proenza Schouler sandals.
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What's a shopping experience like at Ikram?
"I think those first few steps taken from the outside entrance through the front door really establishes what you’re about to experience — which is being in a place that’s very beautiful, but it's also very welcoming — everyone here is extremely friendly. You’ll see people being introduced to people here; you’ll hear about music, culture, new fashion — almost everything."

The front of the boutique with a commanding circular window looking out to Huron Street.
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What are you looking for when choosing the items that go into your store?
"It’s a feeling — like when you go shopping and look at a piece and say to yourself, 'I really love this; I have to have this.' I get first dibs on items before they go out to the press or anything like that, so it's very new and very exciting. I have a certain clientele that is incredibly fashion forward, so I work toward finding pieces that cater to them. I have been very lucky in the sense that I am fearless. I tend to find pieces that are more editorial than commercial. People will say to me, ‘Oh, it's not going to be produced anymore, and there may be only one produced in the world!' My response? 'Even better!' I really try to find things that embrace the spirit and culture of the store. Designers do not design crap; they design beautiful things, so it’s just a matter of what your personal taste is.

A casual table display featuring jewelry from Erickson Beamon.
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You obviously have a history of styling influential people. If you could choose someone to style, who would it be and what would you dress him or her in?
"I don’t look at other people and say, 'I wish I could dress them.' In fact, I actually never said that. Have I said to a client, 'Who fit that dress on you? Bring it in and let me fit it for you!'? Absolutely. But in terms of dressing people, everybody is welcome here. My clients are all celebrities. Everyone that comes in here is treated like a celebrity and catered to like a celebrity. We literally do that for everybody."

From left to right: Lanvin dress with Erickson Beamon pins, Lanvin dress with Erickson Beamon necklace, and a Moschino outfit.
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What are your thoughts about local Chicago designers?
"I have a lot of thoughts on Creatures of the Wind. I'm so happy for Christopher Peters and Shane Gabier, who were recently runners-up for the CFDA award in New York. They’re the local yocals who love being here. They honor the city and the work that they do here — they’re incredible. I hope other local designers in Chicago walk to that beat, because we really are an incredible city. I always say that I think Chicago is the city of the future. It’s the most amazing city for networking in terms of helping people — you’re not a small fish in a big pond. You’re not a million in one; you’re one in a million here. I hope other designers see that and can believe in fashion in New York while still being able to work out of Chicago."

Ikram adjusting a mannequin styled in a Creatures of the Wind jacket with Swarovski back, Creatures button-up top, Creatures skirt, and Sonia Rykiel pins. The mannequin to the right is styled in a Bouchra Jarrar suit with Bouchra top.
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What has been one of your most memorable fashion moments?
"There’s not one memorable moment per say. I’ve had plenty in my lifetime and I’m very fortunate. Some I can’t talk about…and some I can. One of my all-time favorite moments during a Fashion Week was the first time I had ever gone to Paris on a buying trip. I was with my mentor, Joan Weinstein (the face behind Ultimo boutique where Ikram got her start in the fashion biz), and we were invited to Azzedine Alaïa's house for dinner. There were a lot of people present that were very influential in the fashion industry at the moment — Vivienne Westwood, Patrick Demarchelier.... Mr. Alaïa disappears to go get food from the kitchen (he does everything from the cooking to the serving). All of a sudden, I scream because something has bitten me on the leg. I look down expecting to see one of his pets, and, instead, I see Mr. Alaïa on all fours. Everyone at the table was in hysterics. I said to myself, if this is my start in the fashion world, I'm good."

From front to back: Strappy black pump from Oscar de la Renta and sparkly boots and feather heels from Jimmy Choo.
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Tell us about those incredible pictures upstairs!
"We are curating different artists throughout the year. The first set of pictures was from Josh Goldman, my husband. He did this incredible series of photographs. Now we have Jonathan Frank, who is this phenomenal and politically correct artist. He's also local — here’s one place where I promote the local talent. The photographs that are upstairs right now are from a trip my husband and I and took with Jonathan and his wife to Paris last year. He would disappear and go off, and we would all wonder where he was. As you can see, he was off getting a snap shot here and a snap shot there. He printed the photos on canvas, so they look like paintings. It’s been a really, really successful show. We’ve had clients and an established entertainer — who I can’t mention — purchase several pieces."

An overview of Ikram's well-edited shop from the sweeping, red staircase.
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Did you always have the dream of owning your own store?
"Since I was a little kid! I’d line up all my dolls and dress them in their uniforms with their little shoes and tights. I think my mother thought I was crazy, but it all worked out."

What trends are you loving now?
"I love the idea of a great jacket and a great pant, such as Bouchra Jarrar's — the couturier that’s in France and shows during the couture season — jackets and pants. Her clothes are precision at its finest. She has the most amazing in cuts and shapes that I’ve seen for a very long time. Very clean and very classic. It’s not a song and dance; it’s a literal look. Every piece is magnificient. From a very beautiful, silk, asymmetrical dress to a real beautiful, oversized, man jacket with a straight leg pant — it's perfect."

A lighting fixture designed for the new store by Sharon Gilbert of Talisman Glass.
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Aside from your own store, where do you like to shop in Chicago?
"I’m mad for the new Target store on State Street! My shopping is so literal because I have such little spare time. I love Elements — Jeannine and Toby are visionaries in the way that they see furniture and design for home. I also love Material Possessions and I think the owner, Carol, is wonderful. When it comes to grocery shopping, I tell every single girl that if you want to meet your future husband, shop the Whole Foods in Lincoln Park — the place is crawling with mensies. Forget the online-dating services. Go get your kale, pretend your vegan, sip on a glass of wine, and get schnockered with your future husband."

PS11 bags from Proenza Schouler and jewelry from Joomi Lim.
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Tell us about these poised mannequins.
"Ruben Toledo designed these after his own little body. He is an illustrator and an artist — he does a lot of work with Nordstrom, which you have probably seen."

What style advice can you give Chicago women?
"I don’t think of this as Chicago advice. For me, this is universal advice: Be comfortable in your own skin, and your style will come out. You’ll be fabulous in whatever you're wearing."

The front of the store is the perfect vantage point to see the many layers of Ikram's boutique — which truly feels like a retail respite.
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What's a typical day in Chicago like for you?
"I’m out the door by 6 a.m. to work out for about an hour and forty-five minutes — pilates, cardio, whatever. I’ll come home and hang out with my boys before heading into work. I'll be with clients from around 9:30 a.m. to about 6-6:30 p.m. I then head home and spend as much time with my boys as I can before tucking them into bed. Then, it's time to hang out with my husband. We’ll have a date night like dinner and a movie. We love anything Donnie Madia does. Blackbird, avec, Publican...the man can do no wrong. In general, we live a pretty calm life."

And in New York or Europe?
"That’s a completely different answer! I literally get two hours of sleep each night for two-to-eight weeks in a row. I don’t like to think about how exhausting it is, because when you start going down that path, you can literally destroy the mood for yourself. It’s my job, and I love it. And as exhausting as it is, there’s a high. It’s self-inflicted. Like, I don’t want to miss a Rodarte party at midnight in New York City. I don’t want to miss a dinner with Peter Copping (a designer for Nina Ricci) in Paris, or dinner at Azzedine Alaïa's house. They’re very special, and I’m not going to always have them...I really do live in the moment."